The most common question we see about Wattam is quite a big one: what is it, and what do you do? You may be surprised to learn that the answer is pretty straightforward. This is a game helmed by Katamari creator Keita Takahashi, so a degree of whimsical weirdness is to be expected. However, as with his other games, all the bright colours and surface-level oddness boils down to something very simple. Wattam is a game about relationships, and you spend your time holding hands, climbing on things, and joyfully exploding.
Unorthodox it may be, but it's almost impossible to play this game without a smile on your face. Like Noby Noby Boy, you're given total freedom to explore the boundaries of the miniature world. Starting off as a green cube named Mayor, you'll discover the ability to produce bombs from beneath his hat, and doing so results in a colourful explosion that makes everyone happy. As the game goes on, you'll be able to clamber on top of objects and other characters to discover more friends, or to simply form towers for fun. You're given the room to mess around as much as you like, and it's a refreshing change of pace.
Still, there is a story at the centre of all the playfulness, and seeing it through does involve a series of basic objectives to meet. This loose structure means that, once you grow tired of aimlessly running about doing as you please, there are simple puzzles to solve. Doing so will advance the narrative and unlock even more personified objects for you to play with. As you might expect, the story isn't very complicated, but it does deliver some positive messages about inclusion, love, and treating others with respect.
These morals are wonderfully conveyed by Wattam's brilliantly daft cast of characters, leading to moments like the Sun stealing a telephone's receiver so it can make a call, or Mayor turning into a detective to find an ikura sushi's missing caviar. It's nonsense, and it's great. The game is a constant grin-inducing joy from beginning to end, and by its very nature has something to offer players of all ages.
Once you've unlocked all of Mayor's abilities, you'll be able to interact with each environment and its inhabitants in a bunch of fun ways. You can swap to any other character, hold hands to form chains, stack on top of one another, explode with clouds of colour, and more. Some characters have unique abilities, such as a mouth that can eat food people and then poop them out, a fan that can blow others away with gusts of air, or a balloon that can carry someone into the sky. Discovering all the ways the dozens of characters can play with each other is great fun.
However, we did find the controls to be a little cumbersome. Rotating the camera is on the triggers, camera zoom is on L1 and R1, and you can quickly swap to another character on-screen with the right stick. It's not hard, but these basic inputs do take some getting used to, especially when you'll want to move the camera around a fair amount in this chaotic sandbox of a game. Especially in local co-op, where a second player is also running around care free, it can be hard to keep track of everything.
This is a fairly minor issue, but it's exacerbated when the game's performance nosedives. Wattam is a heavily physics-based title, so despite the cartoonish visuals, the frame rate suffers on a surprisingly regular basis. There are occasional moments where it seems the game has frozen entirely for a couple of seconds while the console figures things out. It's frustrating because there are certain points where the game is silky smooth, but it seems that a large number of characters and their interactions with each other definitely take their toll. We're hopeful this is something that can be ironed out, but right now it's the game's biggest problem.
If you're able to look past that limitation, there's so much to love about this game. If you've ever felt that Takahashi's other games aren't for you, this isn't going to change your mind, but it's so disarmingly cheerful that you almost can't have a bad time. If you power through the story, you can easily roll credits within a few hours, but that would be missing some of the point. It's of course worth seeing where the narrative leads, but we get the feeling this is more about the fun of idly messing around. Wattam is like opening a toy box, and all the toys inside desperately want to play with you.
Wattam is a pure, adorable joy. Keita Takahashi's signature idiosyncrasies shine through in this playful game about friendship and finding pleasure in the simple things. Interacting with the wacky cast of characters is great fun, and there's almost no pressure to march on with the story if you'd rather do your own thing. It's a shame the technical side of things lets the experience down somewhat, but when the game is at its ludicrous best, you probably won't care.